Roasted Carrot & Wild Rice Salad

roasted-carrot-&-wild-rice-salad

An enormous bunch of carrots called out to me last weekend at the market. I had a few in salads, made carrot soup, and somehow was still swimming in them. I like carrots as much as the next girl, but I can only eat so many. It would take quite a bit to inspire me to finish off the bunch. So I brought out the big guns.

This grain salad makes carrots (or you could use squash or sweet potato) sexy. Carrots roasted in garlic, wild rice, toasty hazelnuts, briny feta, maple dressing…whoa. Lay it out room temperature in a grand holiday spread or eat it warm for lunch.

carrot-&-wild-rice

coriander

Roasted Carrot & Wild Rice Salad

1 c. wild rice
4-5 medium carrots, sliced thinly on the diagonal
2-3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
olive oil
fine grain sea salt
1/2 c. hazelnuts, roughly chopped
4 oz. block of feta, cubed or crumbled

1/2 tsp. coriander seeds, or 1/4 ground coriander
juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tsp. maple syrup
1-2 T. walnut or hazelnut oil (or more olive oil)
fine grain sea salt

Preheat oven to 425.

First start the rice by placing it in a heavy bottomed pot covered with 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, turn down to low, and simmer, covered, for about 45 minutes. When most of the grains have split open, it is done. You may have to drain off the excess water, then set aside.

Meanwhile, combine the carrots, garlic, a few glugs of oil and a little salt on a baking sheet. Roast until just starting to shrink and turn golden, 25 minutes or so. Check on them every so often and flip at least once.

On a separate baking sheet, spread the hazelnuts in a single layer and slide into the oven under the carrots. These should only take 7-8 minutes to get toasty and fragrant. Then pull them out and set ‘em aside.

Next make the dressing. If you have whole coriander seeds, crush them up. Add the lemon juice and maple syrup and whisk to combine. Whisk in the oil, then salt to taste. You want the dressing to be quite strong tasting, because it will get watered down when tossed in the grains and carrots.

Combine the cooked rice, carrots and most of the nuts and cheese in a serving dish. Pour the dressing over top and toss gently to coat. Top with the rest of the hazelnuts and feta and serve.

serves 4-6

roasted-carrot-&-wild-rice-salad-2

Double Tomato Soup

Is it Winter yet? Not officially, I guess, but I’d argue that as soon as we get into the “Holiday Season”, it’s unofficially Wintertime. I’m not a big fan of cold weather, but I do love me some soup. You may have guessed, if we’ve been acquainted for long, that I eat soup pretty much all year round. This is my current favorite.

In the Chinese medicine point of view, Winter is associated with the element (or phase) of Water. And the kidneys are ruled by water. This is why you may have problems this time of year with things relating to your kidneys (and bladder), your lady or man parts, and your lower back (cause that’s where the kidneys hang out).  It’s important for everyone to stay warm, but if you tend towards any of these issues, you want to take extra care to keep your lower back covered all the time (tuck in that shirt!). Along these lines, the Kidney channel begins on the soles of your feet, so to keep your back from going out, I suggest buying a pair of warm slippers and never letting your feet get cold, because that cold travels straight up to your kidneys.

Another way to keep warm on the inside is eating warm things. This soup is great because you don’t need any super-perishable ingredients. You can keep everything around for weeks or even months most of it, and when you find yourself without and fresh veggies, you know you’ve got that can of tomatoes stashed away, just waiting to become tomato soup. The “double” tomato comes from sun-dried tomatoes, which you’ll want to keep packaged tightly so they don’t dry out. I also used some (optional) dried chilies, because they add another layer of depth to the flavor. You may find it strange to add bread to a soup, but I love the creaminess it adds without resorting to actual cream. I’ve been heating up the leftovers, and this is even better the next day. The dried tomatoes and chilies really give it a special earthy richness. It’s a keeper.

Double Tomato Soup

2-3 T, olive oil
1 onion, sliced
fine grain sea salt
1 tsp. sugar
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 28 oz. can of crushed tomatoes
2 slices of bread (any bread works, especially stale)
1/4 c. sun dried tomatoes (not the oil packed kind)
1 dried chili (optional – I used a large mild Aji chili, for more heat use a smaller, hotter chili like chipotle or chili de arbol)
3-4 c. vegetable stock
to garnish choose from: creme fraiche or sour cream, toasted almonds, olive oil drizzle, smoked paprika, cubed avocado, chopped basil or cilantro.

Heat the oil in a big pot over medium low. Add the onion, a pinch or two of salt and the sugar and cook until the onion is soft and translucent, 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute.

Pour in the tomatoes, then stir in the bread, sundried tomatoes, chili, and stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to low heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the sun dried tomatoes are soft.

Remove from heat and puree, either with an immersion blender (my fave, fast and easy way) or in batches in a blender or food processor.

To serve, ladle into bowls and garnish with whatever your heart desires. I used creme fraishe, toasted almonds, smoked paprika and a drizzle of olive oil.

serves 4-6

Thanksgiving Ideas

As a kid, my Thanksgivings consisted of a long drive to and from Grandma’s house, canned green bean and cream of mushroom soup casserole, and a large, rambunctious Italian family yelling at the Cleveland Browns on TV. And two bowls of cereal. One before we left and one after we got home at the end of the day, so that I didn’t starve.

Boy, I do love being an adult, because now I can cook some delicious meals for myself, family and friends. If your Thanksgiving meal plan hasn’t yet been set in stone, here are a few more ideas from around the web.

Kale and Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes - from 101 Cookbooks

Mini Apple Galettes - from Naturally Ella

Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash - from Love and Lemons

Roasted Butternut and Coconut Soup - from Green Kitchen Stories

Whole Roasted Tandoori Cauliflower – from My New Roots

Garnet Pilaf – from Sprouted Kitchen

Fall Vegetable Slaw with Hot + Sweet Ginger Dressing – from The First Mess

Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad – from Happyolks

Cider Punch – from Not Without Salt

Truffled Delicata and Wheatberry Salad - from Me!

What are you making for Thanksgiving?

Cremini Buckwheat Risotto

“Risotto” is one of my favorite dishes to make. Maybe it’s because it’s endlessly adaptable. Or because it can be made into a one-pot meal. It could also just be the wine. In any case, I’ve really been into experimenting with different grains, veggies, and ways to add creaminess to my endless pots of semi-risotto.

This incarnation turned out to be really unique and delicious, and I thought I should share. Buckwheat is not actually wheat at all, but a gluten-free whole grain that cooks quickly and releases some starch as it breaks down – perfect for working in a little risotto-like creaminess.

Then are the cremini mushrooms. Button or baby bella ‘shrooms could work here, too, just make sure they are the freshest of the fresh. I buy my mushrooms whole, with some dirt still attached, and having never touched a wisp of plastic wrap. If you can only find the packaged kind, transfer them directly to a paper bag upon entering your home. Don’t wash them until you’re ready to eat them, and then just wipe them clean with a damp towel. They don’t like being drenched with water. Also, I’m not a big fan of the stems of any mushroom. I know they are edible (except shiitake – don’t eat those stems) but the texture is more dense, so I take them off. Just grab the stem right near the cap and gently wiggle it back and forth a few times, it should pop right out.

Cremini Buckwheat Risotto

2 T. butter, divided
8 oz. cremini mushrooms, stemmed and sliced (button or baby bella work, too)
fine grain sea salt
3 leeks, white and light green part, sliced into thin half moons
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 c. buckwheat (or it’s toasted sister, kasha)
1 c. white wine or beer
2-3 c. warm water or stock
2 T. creme fraiche, plus more for garnish
chopped parsley (optional) for garnish

Melt 1 T. butter in a heavy-bottomed pot or saucepan over medium low. Add the mushrooms and a generous pinch of salt, and toss to coat in the butter. These guys soak up a lot of fat, so toss them quick, but don’t be too worried if some seem dry at first. After a few minutes they will start to release their liquid. Let the mushrooms keep cooking until most of the liquid is gone, then remove them from the pot and set aside.

Melt the other tablespoon of butter in the same pot. Add the leeks and cook for about 10 minutes, until they are very soft and maybe a little brown. Add the buckwheat, garlic, and a few more pinches of salt, and let cook a couple more minutes.

Pour in the wine or beer and bring to just a simmer. Stir around a lot until most of the liquid is gone. Add in 1/2 cup to 1 cup water or stock; keep stirring and adding more liquid when it disappears. You need to keep an eye out on the “bubbly-ness” of the liquid. It should stay at a quiet simmer, not too bubbly, but also not still. Keep adjusting the heat as needed to achieve this. Eventually the buckwheat will become tender. Start checking for doneness after you’ve added 2 cups of liquid, keeping in mind you may need to add another cup or more.

Once the buckwheat is tender, take it off the heat. Stir in the creme fraiche, then fold in the mushrooms. Taste, and add more salt if necessary (if you used water, you may need to add up to a teaspoon of salt). Garnish with the parsley and a few small dollops of the creme fraiche.

serves 4

Un-stuffed Peppers

Some days are full of new experiences. But other times it’s all about nostalgia. Today’s a nostalgia day.

When I was a junior in college I decided that I REALLY wanted to pierce my belly button. So I convinced a friend to drive down to the best piercing parlor in the area. When we got there, the nice man at the front desk informed me that I didn’t have enough fat to pierce (don’t hate me, I’ve since gained the fat…) and he was afraid he might pierce an organ. So, no belly button ring for me.

And, along the nostalgia lines, this un-stuffed pepper recipe is one of the first things I started making when I became vegetarian, all those years ago. I wish I could remember the cookbook it came out of and give credit where it’s due, but alas, the actual recipe is  long gone and all that remains is the idea: slice bell peppers in half, lay them close together and pour and sprinkle lots of yummy stuff over them. Served alongside some rice or quinoa, they employ all the ingredients of stuffed peppers, but without the hassle of actually stuffing them.

So, back to those belly buttons. For those who aren’t familiar with acupuncture, it is based on a series of meridians that run along the surface of the body. One of the meridians is called the Conception Vessel, and it runs along the middle of the abdomen and chest. And yes, it is linked to, among other things,fertility (in men and women). So, if you have any concern about fertility, or any other matters below the belt, best to take out that belly button ring!

Un-stuffed Peppers

2 large bell peppers (any color, but I obviously used red)
2-3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 T. capers, chopped
1 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp. fine grain sea salt
1/2 c. shredded mozzarella, or other melty cheese
1/4 c. breadcrumbs (I used whole wheat panko)
2 T. olive oil
1 c. quinoa

Preheat the oven to 350. Slice the peppers in half, take out the stems and seeds, and lay, cut side down, in a baking dish that they just fit into in a single layer. Sprinkle the garlic, capers, thyme, pepper flakes and salt evenly over the peppers, then the cheese, then the breadcrumbs. Pour the olive oil over the whole thing. Slide the dish into the oven and cook for about 30 minutes. The cheese and breadcrumbs should be browned, and the peppers soft, but still retain some structure.

While the peppers cook, combine the quinoa and 2 cups of water in a heavy bottomed pot. Bring to a boil, then turn down to low and simmer for 20 minutes, or until the quinoa is soft and the water is gone.

Spread some quinoa on a plate and top with a pepper slice or two.

serves 2-3

 

Chai Spiced Apple Crisps

5 Elements: Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal, Water. Each element has 2 corresponding organs and a whole host of other characteristics associated with it. Today, this week, in fact, for the next few years for me, it’s all about the Earth element. It’s organs are the Spleen and the Stomach. It’s in charge of things like nourishment, sowing and reaping. It’s associated with the sweet taste, a fragrant smell and all intellectual pursuits.

So, what does all this have to do with me? (and you?) As a student, I’m pretty much always engaged in some intellectual pursuits as of late. Overthinking, according to Oriental medicine, can lead to weak Spleen qi. To counteract that, while studying, people tend to crave something sweet. (See how these are all riffing off the list of Earth-y things). This is why, so my teacher informs us, many students gain weight. Too much sugar. I’m working on counteracting that with these apple crisps. Just a touch of sugar and spice, but most of the sweetness comes from the apples. They are great to grab as a quick snack while studying, or doing most anything else. And if you want your house to smell like Fall, I recommend baking up a bunch.

The idea for these came from Kimberly’s Cocoa Pear Crisps. I had to make many adjustments as I went along. Maybe because my mandoline doesn’t say 1/8 inch (just thin), maybe the temperature of my oven is off, maybe apples are different than pears…who knows. In the recipe I gave a range of options, just to be on the safe side. So keep your eyes and nose open so you don’t burn anything!

Chai Spiced Apple Crisps

3 apples (I used honeycrisp)
2 T. sugar
1 T. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cloves
1 tsp. ground cardamom

Preheat the oven to 275. Slice apples to 1/8 of an inch thickness with a mandoline and pull out any seeds. Lay them out in a single layer on a baking sheet or 4, with either a cooling rack or parchment paper set inside. I had to do this in a few batches since I only have a half size stove and 2 baking sheets.

Mix the rest of the ingredients together in a bowl and sprinkle over the apple slices. Slide them into the oven. Check up on them after about 15 minutes. If you are using parchment, flip them once they are shrunken. Keep a close eye out, and remove them as they start to pull away from the pan. It could take 30 minutes, or up to an hour. If you get them too early they’ll be more like fruit leather and not crisp, and if you wait too long you get charcoal.

Let them sit and cool to crisp up.

 

Black Bean & Sweet Potato Chili

It’s been a while. I promise, I haven’t forgotten about you, I’ve just been so busy learning. It turns out that going to school, and working, and taking care of kitties, and blogging, is a lot of stuff to do. I wish I had a ton of cool Oriental Medicine tidbits to share, but so far it’s been mostly learning where all the muscles are – where they attach to the bones, and what they do. Plus lots of memorizing of acupuncture points. Cause no one wants an acupuncturist who puts the needles in the wrong place!

Somewhere, in the midst of all this craziness, I whipped up a pot of very special chili. Sweet potatoes and bell peppers and black beans. A bit of cinnamon (like they do in Cincinnati), cocoa, beer and a tiny drizzle of maple syrup. I promise this isn’t a sweet chili,  all this just adds a great complex flavor. You’re gonna love it.

Oh, and I have managed to pick up one fun fact that I can’t seem to work into a cute story that ultimately leads to dinner. In Chinese Medicine, the lungs are associated with the skin; and the skin is even sometimes referred to as the third lung. After all, it does do a bit of breathing through your pores. So, a very insightful teacher of mine suggested that if you have lung trouble, then you shouldn’t get tattooed.

Black Bean and Sweet Potato Chili

1-2 T. olive oil
1 onion, diced
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 small chilies (a jalepeno is good for less heat, a serrano or 2 for more), minced
1 tsp. cumin seeds (or ground)
1 tsp. cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. fine grain sea salt
1-2 lbs. sweet potatoes (2 medium, or 4 baby), in 3/4″ to 1″ dice
1 bell pepper, diced
1 c. lager, stout, or other beer
1 28 oz. can or crushed tomatoes (fire roasted if you can find ‘em)
1 15 oz. can of black beans, rinsed (about 1 1/2 c.)
2 T. maple syrup
for garnish: creme fraiche or sour cream, or avocado for vegans, chopped fresh herbs

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium. Add the onion and turn the heat down to medium low. Cook about 5 minutes, then add the garlic, chilies, cumin, cocoa, cinnamon and salt. Cook for a minute, until everything smells amazing, then stir in the potatoes and pepper, and stir to coat.

After a few minutes, pour in the beer to deglaze the pot (use your wooden spoon to scrape the stuck bits off the bottom). When it comes to a boil and starts to thicken a bit, add the tomatoes. You may need a little water to cover the vegetables, add it in now. Bring the whole thing to a boil, turn down to low, and simmer, covered for about 30 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are soft.

Stir in the beans and the maple syrup. If it’s too thick for you, add some more water. Taste and adjust the seasoning – keep adding pinches of salt until the flavor pops. It will depend on your salt and how much water you had to add. Cook for another few minutes to marry the flavors. Serve topped with the creme fraiche and chopped herbs.

serves 4-6

Thai Curry Squash Soup

There’s nothing more exciting about changing seasons than finding the new produce at the farmer’s market. Well, except maybe the wardrobe changes. It’s a toss up. For so many of my friends, this is their favorite season; for the weather, the boots, the apples, scarves and squashes. This one is for you.

Red Thai curry paste gets mashed with garlic and coats big chunks of butternut (or whatever your favorite is) squash. In goes the stock – cook til tender. Puree and add coconut milk. Easy peasy. I bet you can come up with way more exciting garnishes than this, I just threw on some cilantro and toasted pumpkin seeds. Have at it, and if you come up with something great, please share with us. I can imagine this would be great with a small kabocha or a few delicata squashes, both are quite sweet and have edible skins, which eliminates the most time-consuming part of this recipe, peeling the squash.

Thai Curry Squash Soup

1 T. coconut oil
1 T. red Thai curry paste
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small-ish butternut squash, or another squash you like – about 2-3 lbs., peeled and cut into chunks
3 c. vegetable stock
1 can (14 oz.) coconut milk (not lite)
sea salt to taste
toasted pumpkin seeds and chopped cilantro to garnish

Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the curry paste and squish around for about a minute, then add the garlic. Keep stirring for another 30 seconds, then add the squash. Toss to coat the chunks in the curry mixture, then pour in the stock. Bring to a boil, turn to low and simmer, covered, until tender, about 20-30 minutes.

Turn off the heat and puree – I used an immersion (stick) blender, which makes pretty easy, fast work of this, but if all’s you’ve got is a regular blender, fear not. Just transfer the soup in batches, making sure to vent the blender. When all the soup is smooth and back in the pot, add the coconut milk. Turn the heat back on, to about medium low, and cook for a few minutes to work in the milk. During this time, taste, and depending on the saltiness of your stock, you may need to add more salt. Keep adding, pinch by pinch, until the flavors pop.

Serve topped with the pumpkin seeds and cilantro.

serves 4-6

 

Smoky Tempeh & Peppers

As the cold weather creeps in, bit by bit, our bodies start to crave more build-up foods. More protein and fat to keep the heat in and prepare for the Winter (what? already? I think we’ve got a while, but it never hurts to plan ahead). This dish fit the bill for me. Hearty tempeh and the last of the summer’s sweet peppers simmered in a paprika-chipolte-maple marinade and served with light but protein-rich quinoa. Quinoa, small as it is, is pretty mighty in this respect. The highest amount of protein of all the grains resides in this little guy (though he’s technically a seed…).

I used some cute little sweet peppers I found at the farmers market, but bell peppers will work just as well. And you won’t normally see me stirring delicate fresh herbs into a dish that is still cooking. The oils in the leaves that make them so fragrant and delicious dissipate quickly when cooked, so I almost always use them raw. However, in this dish I used the cilantro as more of a vegetable than an herb, and since I used a ton, I figured it was ok if a little of the flavor escaped. There’s still plenty to go around.

Smokey Tempeh & Peppers

2-3 T. olive oil, divided
8 oz. tempeh
1 lb. sweet or bell peppers, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. shoyu
2 T. maple syrup
juice of 1 lime
1 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. chipotle powder (or more if you’re feeling brave)
1 c. quinoa
1/2 c. cilantro, roughly chopped, plus more for garnish

Heat 1-2 tablespoons of oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the tempeh and  cook for 10 minutes, flipping once, to brown on a few sides. Stir in the peppers and cook for a few minutes while you prepare the marinade.

Combine the garlic, shoyu, maple syrup, lime juice, the other tablespoon of oil, paprika and chipotle in a liquid measuring cup that holds at least 1 cup. Quickly whisk together with a fork. Add water to make 1 c of marinade. Pour the marinade over the tempeh mixture. Simmer, covered for 15-20 minutes, until everything is tender and most of the liquid is gone. Remove from heat and stir in the cilantro.

Meanwhile, place the quinoa and 2 cups of water in a pot. Bring to a boil, turn down to low and simmer, covered, for 15-20 minutes, until tender and all the water is gone. Let sit for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.

Serve the tempeh mixture over the quinoa, and top with some extra cilantro.

serves 4

Chickpea & Kale Stew

According to Chinese Medicine, insomnia and low self-esteem are both partly caused by weak blood (go figure). The traditional remedy is to drink/eat some blood…uh, no thanks. How about nourishing the blood with a warm filling stew instead? This one has hearty chickpeas for protein, tahini for iron and kale for, well, everything!

This might not be the meal to make if you’ve gotta get dinner on the table in a hurry – though with the shortcuts below we can get it down to less than an hour. But if you have the time, and especially if you’re going for that super nourishing thing, cooking the chickpeas from scratch is really worth it. Not only are they way cheaper, but they taste so much better, and the cooking liqueur acts as a vegetable stock and flavors the whole pot. If you don’t have time to wait though, you can use canned. Just start with cooking the onions, spices and garlic right in the soup pot, then add stock and the potatoes. When the taters are almost done add the drained and rinsed chickpeas to the pot with the kale. Speaking of kale, I really love lacinato in this. It’s not a requirement, but be aware if you use regular kale that it will take a bit longer to soften in the pot.

Chickpea & Kale Stew

2/3 c. dried chickpeas, soaked for at least an hour (to use canned, see the note above)
1-2 lbs. small potatoes, cut in big cubes
1 T. olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. sea salt
2 T. tahini
1 small bunch kale, finely chopped
1/4 c. toasted pine nuts

Drain chickpeas from their soaking liquid and place in a large soup pot with 5 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then turn down, cover and simmer for about an hour. Keep in mind the cooking times for beans is approximate, depending on the age of your beans.

After an hour your chickpeas should be starting to soften (if it happens earlier, then don’t wait the whole hour). Don’t wait until they are completely cooked because they still have another 1/2 hour to go. Add the potatoes, make sure the stew comes back up to a simmer, and keep cooking for another 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are fairly soft, but not totally done.

After 10-20 minutes of the potato cooking, heat the olive oil in a separate skillet over medium low. Add the onions and spices and cook until the onion is soft, 7-8 minutes. Add the garlic and salt and stir, giving the whole thing another minute or so. Scoop out about a 1/4 c. of the cooking liquid from the pot into another container. Whisk (I used a fork) the tahini into the liquid until it has dissolved. Pour it back into the pot.

Add the onion mixture to the soup pot. Be aware that beans get tough and take more time to cook if there is salt in the cooking liquid, so only add this when the chickpeas are mostly tender. Also stir in the kale at this time.

Let the whole thing cook for another 5-10 minutes. It is done when the chickpeas, potatoes and kale are all tender to the bite. Serve topped with the toasted pine nuts.

serves 4.